Dancer/Natarajasana is my most-loved Yoga balance for so many reasons. It requires and builds flexibility in the hip, back, shoulder and hamstring, tones the legs and builds concentration and focus. But a lot of people feel unnecessarily intimidated by this pose. In this blog I offer modifications to make this pose more accessible while also working towards getting into a deeper variation of the posture.
Bring your weight into one leg and lift the other up in front of you bending at the knee. Bring the bend leg back so the knees are in line. Lift the opposite arm to you lifted knee and balance here.
From Variation 1, reach back with the hand on the same side of the lifted leg and take hold of the inner sole of the foot.
From Variation 2 start to lift the back leg while keeping the hips in line. Allow the body to tilt forward a little, but focus on pushing the back leg into your hand and using this to open the hip and back.
Of course there are more advanced versions that this! But I’m still working towards them myself so like everyone else I stay where feels best for my body until I’m ready to deepen the practice further <3 Why not send me your most divine variation of dancer?
I want to share the story of my journey to being able to perform Chaturanga Dandasana or the bottom of a yoga push up. It was a slow process involving a lot of collapsing to the floor, frustration and self-doubt. That went on for a long time and then I started to do something I wish I’d done years before. That was taking an alternative option – in this case Ashtanga Namaskar or five-pointed bow pose.
It took me so long to choose this option partly because I had almost exclusively done yoga in a gym where the focus had been on strength and power, so no one had ever told me there was an alternative to a belly flop in the middle of my sun salutations. And partly because my ego was getting in the way of my practice and I just wanted to be able to do what the person next to me was doing. The irony is that when I started regularly performing Ashtanga Namaskar I quickly built up the strength for Chaturanga in a way I hadn’t by performing Chaturanga incorrectly.
Options in yoga aren’t there because one pose is better than another, but because every human body is different and there’s no need to rush or force yourself into a posture. Rather than giving in to feelings of inadequacy or skipping a pose, taking an option allows us to participate and build strength for other poses in the future.
The other absolutely fantastic thing about options in yoga is being able to use equipment. Blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters, jellies… they are all brilliant and should never be shunned. Using blocks and straps I can achieve variations of Utpluti Dandasana (Floating Stick) and Rajakapotasana (King Pigeon). Maybe one day after using the equipment these poses will be achievable for me. But even if not, I like to remember this quote ‘yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down’. Now I challenge you to go and look up a variation or option of a pose you never thought you’d be able to do and give it a go!
Are you thinking about Yoga Teacher Training? Are you wondering if you’re good enough? I know I was. This is my story of choosing yoga.
I’m not good enough…
I signed up for Yoga Teacher Training on 16 November 2017. I had planned to start a training course the previous January, and prior to that the November before. In both instances I put it off. The first time I was looking at the course I went as far as buying the recommended textbook, Yoga for Fitness Professionals. Little did I know that two years later the woman pictured in the book would be my inspiring, kind and beautiful teacher, Annie.
I know now that I should not have put off what I wanted to do with my life. I was so afraid that I wasn’t good enough and that I wouldn’t be able to teach. But I was also being driven by my ego, I did not think that my friends and family would view pursuing a career in Yoga as right for me. So instead, I moved to Ireland to take a job which I absolutely hated in an industry where people are treated as disposable. I was working for someone who was deeply unpleasant towards me and I began to feel really trapped. I don’t regret a single day of my life because mistakes are valuable and even painful experiences can be useful in knowing who you are, what matters to you and where you want to be. In the end I resigned and felt a huge weight lifted.
I came back to England and booked my training course with YMCA Fit & Yoga Professionals. I had found a new confidence, I knew I was good enough. If you’re reading this and you haven’t figured it out yet, you are too. Yoga isn’t about being able to do every asana, it’s about loving yoga and trying to live a happy, healthy, yogic lifestyle. But if you love something then it makes sense that you would want to share it. I’m not saying every yoga practitioner should sign up for teacher training tomorrow, but I do think that we should put fear aside as one of the reasons not to. Thinking about whether you are financially able to, have the time to devote to a course, and whether you want to teach yoga not just go on a retreat, should be the main things to consider.
YMCA Fit & Yoga Professionals
I had done A LOT of research into training programmes because I had been thinking about training for such a long time. The things which attracted me to the YMCA course were that it allowed you to join the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs), which is an internationally recognized body. It did not hurt that it was significantly cheaper than other providers. Additionally, as a History graduate who had not taken any Science A-Levels, I was very interested to learn more about Physiology and Anatomy – the YMCA require you to take a Level 3 P&A exam as part of the course. It was the right decision for me, but there are a lot of great training providers out there, everyone has to do their own research and make an informed choice. This blog was really helpful for me when I was looking into training providers: http://thoughtbrick.com/yoga/yoga-teacher-training-course-choose/
A few final thoughts on choosing yoga…
One good thing about delaying my teacher training was that I had so much experience going to yoga classes when I began, which really made teaching easier as I could draw on what I had found most useful from so many teachers. Moving between countries and various cities over the previous years meant I had experienced a lot of yoga styles and met many yoga teachers. I’ll never forget the moment a teacher in Southampton pushed on my back and my heels first touched the floor in downward dog – I suddenly realised how the pose was supposed to feel and it was as if something had just clicked into place. I am so grateful to all the amazing teachers who have helped me on my yoga journey.
If you are thinking about training, don’t just worry about how good you are in your practice, worry about how able you would be to teach other people. The best way to learn about teaching yoga is to go to yoga classes, I know that sounds obvious, but I think sometimes people think that just because they can do a pose it means they can teach it. Doing and teaching are different. Just wait for the first time you teach Vrksasana (Tree pose) and realise that talking about how to do the pose to ten people who are staring at you makes it harder to balance! Most training providers suggest you have a regular practice and attend classes for some years before training and I cannot stress enough how much I support this. So practice, practice, practice and when you’re ready to teach don’t let fear hold you back!